Sanctuary at Pembroke College, Oxford?

After stabbing someone with a “little knife” one day in August 1463, John Harry, a tailor of Oxford, fled to Broadgates Hall, now part of Pembroke College, then a residence hall for law students at the university.

Harry claimed sanctuary there, as the hall belonged to the Hospitallers, which according to the Acts of the Chancellor’s Court, “is distinguished by having the right to defend anyone who flees to it seeking its immunity,” a right granted “in ancient times by Roman pontiffs.”

At first the university’s proctor – ignorant of these privileges – dragged John Harry out of the hall, Harry himself protesting loudly that his rights were violated. In the end, the man Harry wounded didn’t die, meaning that there was no felony and thus no reason for sanctuary, but Harry continued to worry that his victim would seek revenge. The proctor, presumably having been rapped on the knuckles by the chancellor and/or Hospitaller officials, did a 180 from officious to obsequious, emphasizing how desirous he was to keep those liberties unsullied.

He led Harry back to the Hall so he might continue to enjoy its protection. Macleane’s 1897 History of Pembroke College (29) indicates several more sanctuary seekers there in following decades (though I haven’t found them).

Anstey, ed., Munimenta Academica (1868), 2:702-4. Image: Pembroke College

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